On 14 February 2024  we learned that Bangladeshi minor girls Kamna and Palomi were being exploited in Mumbai’s red light area Kamathipura.  We shared the information we had about the minors with the police.  On 16th February, the police and our team were ready to raid the brothel when we learned that someone tipped off the red light area and few of the brothels started to shut down.  The police cancelled the rescue operation. We were hoping that Kamna and Palomi wouldn’t be shifted outside Kamathipura or worse outside the state, making it difficult to track and rescue them.  

On 17th February we were hoping the police would initiate a raid but we got intel that both victims were not at the brothel.   We tried a few days later and were not able to locate Kamna or Palomi.  We kept visiting the brothel over the next few days but were not able to locate the victims. The police started to get annoyed with us and started to withdraw their cooperation,  

On 28th February we called the Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, from the Crime Branch in Mumbai and explained the situation to him. The ACP was ready to take action and rescue the victims. He also asked us for regular updates about the victims.

On 29th February we met with the ACP in Mumbai. Rescue strategies were discussed. The Anti Human Trafficking Unit, AHTU,  would assist us if they were available and not involved in other cases. We were happy to learn that a Police Inspector, PI,  who had assisted us in another rescue operation had returned to office and was available for the rescue operation. 

We met with the PI and her team later that evening and discussed rescue strategies. Due to the unavailability of lady police officers the police were unable to initiate the raid that evening.  The raid was pushed to the next evening. 

On 1st March we met the police and the AHTU in the evening. After going over the rescue plan, we proceeded to Kamathipura.  

At 8:45pm the police and our team raided the brothel. Though we couldn’t find Kamna, we found Kareena, another victim who we suspected was a Bangladeshi minor who was also being forced into prostitution. She was with her brothel keeper. We found Palomi and four other victims.  The police rescued the victims and arrested Kareena’s brothel keeper.  The police continued their search and collected evidence from the brothel (condoms, mobile phones and other photographic evidence.) 

At 10:24 pm the police completed their initial reports at the brothel and the six victims, the accused and our team proceeded to the police station. The AHTU interviewed the victims and interrogated the brothel keeper.   Though we wanted to add Section 370 of the IPC (whoever, knowingly or having reason to believe that a minor has been trafficked, engages such minor for sexual exploitation) in the First Information Report, FIR, but the police opted for an alternative approach stating the victims ossification tests had not yet been taken. 

On 2nd March at 7 am the FIR was completed.  We were told by the police that the victims would be produced in court at 11 am and later informed that the hearing was pushed to 1 pm. At 10:45 am we learned that the victims were taken for a medical check-up at a government hospital.  At 1:00 pm we were at the court. We were then told that the victims would arrive at 3 pm. As we waited for the victims to arrive we kept looking at a police bus that had been parked in the court premises for sometime.

At 2:50 pm the victims disembarked from the same police bus we had been observing. The victims were intercepted by a lady and Kareena’s brothel keeper.   When we questioned the lady about her presence,  she brushed it off saying she was a friend. When we questioned the police why this lady was given access to the victims, the police were silent.  We asked the lady to leave right away.   A police officer took the brothel keeper’s mobile phone and handed it to someone who was standing nearby.  The AHTU arrived at the court that time and asked about the mobile phones that were brought in as evidence and recorded in the FIR. The police officer said she hadn’t done anything wrong and said they weren’t phones but Aadhar cards. We knew this to be totally incorrect as we had seen the three confiscated phones at the police station while the FIR was being registered.  Now the phones which were to be presented as evidence had disappeared. 

Since the judge was on leave, the victims 164 statements (164 statement is a voluntary statement in which the victim shares her experience at the brothel and names of the accused to the magistrate) were not recorded. The court ordered a few reports on the victims to be submitted to them within the week.